Book Review of the Week: Fodor's Japan, 18th Edition

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture

As anyone who has been to Japan can attest, the country is packed full of great things to see, interesting history, and fascinating people. I've lived in Japan twice, and think I could live there the rest of my life and still not experience everything I want to. 

Luckily, we live in the age of information - websites galore, as well as travel guides researched by people in the know.  I've recently read a fantastic guidebook of Japan, and wanted to share it with our Wandering Educators.

Fodor's Japan, 18th Edition, was written by 14 different local authors, each with their own area of expertise. It is quite extensive, with sections on each geographic area. Each geographic section focuses on exploring the area, where to eat, where to stay, nightlife and the arts, shopping, and essentials. There are also side trips for each area, and tips for traveling inexpensively in Japan (not an easy thing!).

At the end of the book, there is a section loaded with Japan essentials: travel resources, booking resources, transportation, communications, eating, money, and safety.  There is also an excellent index (the best part of any book, in my opinion!) and lots of maps. 

There is a section on Hiroshima, and Sadako's thousand paper cranes. I've made 1,000 paper cranes twice, and taken one there and sent one. There is nothing like it. If you'd like to teach your kids about making a true gesture of peace, please consider making 1,000 origami paper cranes, and sending them to the Children's Peace Monument. There is only a small section on traveling with children, although children are well-loved in Japan.  If you are taking children to Japan, it would be a great idea to supplement this guidebook with other resources (Little Traveler DVDs, web searches, etc.).

What sets this book apart from other guidebooks, however, are the descriptions. When I read this section on Uchiko, I envisioned myself there:

"Walking the cobbled hills of Uchiko feels like traveling back in time.  Along the old shopping street, Yokaichi, the only change in centuries has been the heights of the plants against the beige-orange walls.  Go straight out of the station and follow a wooden sign pointing left.  You won't need more than a morning to poke through the fun shops, full of good, cheap omiyage: straw pinwheels, tea leaves, sour tsukemono, and local sake.  The highlight is a waxworks, where an old man and his sons hand-make distinctive candles (the smaller ones are as surprisingly inexpensive as the larger are surprisingly costly)," p. 524.

The cool thing? I've BEEN there, and it was *exactly* like that. Once you trust a travel guide, you can open yourself up to other experiences that they recommend, and delve deeper into the culture.



Photo by our Global Citizenship Editor, Johanna Kato.



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